Wonder why I’ve been doing so much Star Wars lately? Yep – Rogue One released to the public and I finally got a copy (steelbook, of course – because I’m THAT guy). So time to top it off until Christmas time when we get to do Star Wars fever all over again!
Getting to rewatch the movie I was struck by the “bloat” within. I understand that Forest Whittaker’s character has a role in the SW: Rebels cartoon, but let’s face it the movie would have actually been improved by removing his segments. The Pilot too. The actor did a good job making him lovable and all but really his arc could have been combined into Jyn’s.
Indeed by the time the movie is over even Jyn’s arc seems superfluous, and isn’t she supposed to be the main character? She at least served more of a purpose by being the codebreaker to locate the hidden file they needed, but that could have been done over a cell phone. What else was there? Inspiring speeches? The movie with the most inspiring speech of all time, Independence Day (with Braveheart an honorable mention) still had the speech giver go out and contribute to the battle. At the climax Jyn went climbing and sent an email. I guess the movie established her climbing acumen with the earlier ladder scene in the rain, but that was another scene entirely pointless that could have been blended with the others.
If you swapped her with any other character in those scenes, it would still work. I almost hate to say it (because I find shoehorned romance so trite) but I think they should have given Jyn and Cassian a more overt romance in the film. At least then both would have a driving motivation at the climax. Can you imagine the ending scene where they’re on the beach with the approaching destruction wave, and both of them talk about having a life together after all of this. Like having a house on a similar beach, where their children could play in the surf. You want to make a tragedy, let’s crank up the pathos, people! Cassian is an empty shell of a man worn down by years of spy work. Jyn is… I’m actually not sure. What was she living for? What were her goals? We find her in a prison and she’s not happy with the rebellion. She could be a fascinating character playing the role of “everyman” who just wants to live her life and cares neither for the empire nor rebellion yet we never see any sign of what her life would be without the struggle. Was it just about revenge for her? You want to know why I loved the movie Serenity so much? It was because most of the characters in there had an arc where they decide to fight for something besides themselves. If you squint, you can kind of see hints of a similar arc wanting to be here in this movie, but it doesn’t quite realize since most of the characters are so poorly defined as to where they are coming from and where they are going.
Baze (the gunner) has the most arc of any of them because it’s apparent where he’s coming from (a faith lost) and where he goes (a faith regained).
The stick v stormtroopers (both the blind man’s and Jyn’s) also bothered me more the second time around. If it had been covered in metal or was thicker I might have bought it but the stormtrooper armor looks like it should literally protect against such impacts. Heck even in the scenes where they get hit it appears visually to not affect them. You can almost see the stunt men taking a dive.
And why was there an ongoing order to kill Galen? Cassian just saw the Death Star, WORK. There is no reason now to bother trying to kill him or send valuable personnel and equipment on a bombing run. I know the rebellion is supposed to be small and rough but that’s literally what spies are for!
“Cassian, your orders stand.”
“Base, I watched the Death Star blow up Jedah. The weapon is online and operational. Killing Galen will accomplish nothing. We’d be better off interrogating him.”
“Uh… maybe, but we don’t like what he did to James Bond!”
Don’t even get me started on a shield covering an entire planet with no visible generator.
I do like the blind monk in the movie. Blind warriors are a familiar trope, especially in Japan which inspired a lot of Star Wars so it’s kind of shocking to realize that it’s just NOW the trope shows up in film (it’s been in the EU obviously – a whole race of them actually). Actually imagine for a moment had they made Mace Windu from the prequels, blind. That would have been cool. Anyway, like the Honest Trailers above, some might ask, “ain’t he a jedi?” but I like the movie’s distinction. Neatly dividing the line of the Force between Jedi/Sith and muggles just… spoils the spirit of it in the original films. It should definitely be a gradient or spectrum of Force users like a monk or guardian who is not quite a Jedi.
I liked Cassian more on a second viewing, though the movie could have gone into more details about his history. He mentions fighting in the rebellion since he was six which looks to be about the same age Jyn was when her father was taken away. So another benefit of a romance would have been for the chance for them to bond over childhood tragedy and let the audience see more about the character. Yeah they’ll probably write a book about him but this was the moment it really should have been shown to us.
How could it have been? Cut the fat. Yes I know that’s ironic because a movie accurate to real spywork would have a lot of bloat to it. i.e. There wouldn’t be a single pilot defecting, but twenty! One or two legit ones, half a dozen fakes sent out by the Empire to misdirect and infiltrate, and the rest would probably be legitimately crazy people looking for attention. However being true to life would require a much longer form of storytelling. So in the interest of time, we’d have to trim the film to the essentials. Make the two former temple guards Cassian’s contacts on Jedah. Figure out where Jyn is starting and what she wants out of life. Let Cassian work as an actual spy and drive the plot forward instead of making it all about Galen. Most of the Star Wars movies have characters that “fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants” so let Cassian or Jyn be a crafty planner. The film has enough conflict on its own, don’t have a mid-movie division between the core 5 characters. You can still have the tragic ending, but let’s REALLY crank up the tragedy. Show Cassian and Jyn morning for a life they’ll never have. Let Baze & Chirrut believe that with their death, the last remnants of the Jedi are gone forever. K-2S0… well he was already at maximum pathos because he was voiced by Alan Tudyk and nobody can hit you with pathos like that bastard. *sniff*
I don’t see much else to add to my initial review. This was definitely a film made by committee and it would have helped having a single vision. I think it also would have helped had the makers waited one more year. It makes me leery of Disney’s plan to release Star Wars every year at Christmas – every other year would have been much better and given them the time they needed to bring these movies from adequate, to greatness.
Bonus fun! Watch SFDebris’ video series on the creation of Star Wars then rewatch Rogue One. You’ll start to notice a whole lot of references to earlier drafts of the original script. (also sfdebris is always worth watching)